We’re sitting 24 months away from a massive election. A Presidential election that has no incumbent President or Vice-President in the race. A Gubernatorial election with no incumbent in the race. A Lt. Governorship with no incumbent in the race. A Senate race with one of the most miserable failures in America trying to hold a blue-trending seat. State houses with big Democratic margins that probability suggests should begin to shift back towards neutrality. It’s not big, it’s hugangous.
What do we do to take advantage of this? We run somebody in every race…duh. But, what does that really do for the election? In this posting I will give some suggestions for filling those seats that we never have candidates running. I’m going to try and lay out how the 100 Counties strategy works from the top-down and from the bottom-up. Lastly, I will give some suggestions for what kind of timeline would be needed to put a 15-day GOTV effort in place by October. This might seem like micromanaging, but my point is to lay out how a person could potentially run for office and help set up the 100 County strategy without bankrupting themselves.
I think this is important. Remember that these seats do not sit fallow because there are no Democrats in these counties, they sit fallow because we can’t convince anybody to run! So, a 100 Counties strategy won’t work unless we get people to run. There are a couple things to keep in mind when trying to recruit a candidate through the 100 Counties strategy.
• With the centralized 100 Counties system, you won’t be left out on a cliff with no support, no matter what.
• You will probably lose, which gives you the freedom to run the campaign you want, but….
• YOU MIGHT WIN! This means you have to have the freedom to serve.
The legislature pays about $15,000 a year and about another $15,000 in housing reimbursement and such. That is for almost an entire year; remember it is part-time pay for full-time work. One of our biggest challenges will be getting real-world Progressives to run for the legislature given this financial challenge. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at what the top 10 (alphabetically) Democratic House members do for a living: Professor of Art, Legislator, Retired Educator, Homemaker, Retired Educator, Optometrist (boo-hiss), Attorney, Attorney, Homemaker, Banker.
Given this leaning towards attorneys and retirees, who do we look for to be a Progressive candidate? Well, there are some generic candidates that I think we can look into for 2008. I could give my reasoning for these, but I don’t want to get too sidetracked and besides that, y’all are pretty damn smart. Some suggestions off the top of my head: stay-at-home Mom with kids just leaving for college, young teachers without too many family ties, Community College professors, private school professors, retired educators, Progressive small business successes like Will R, traveling nurses, semi-retired docs like PNHP members. Those are just a few thoughts. In general, we need to look for the exceptional story that gets the candidate into the papers and into the minds of their constituents. A story that makes people want to help, like with Larry Kissell. This is why I keep pushing Progressives like Thomas Brock to run!!!
How do you overcome the money deficit that all challengers face? How do you overcome the name recognition deficit? How do you run a campaign against the GOP machine?
The answer to all of these questions lies in the Online Campaign System, which will allow the smaller campaign in the most Republican district in North Carolina to present themselves as a top-tier campaign. The online system will allow the candidate and his campaign to have a top-flight website, provide instant press releases, contact voters, keep track of volunteers, communicate with the state party, accept donations, manage finances, and more.
However, that is just the start of a great campaign. We have all heard the studies that person-to-person contact is the best way of turning out the vote. Better than postcards, better than phone calls, certainly better than robocalls. There is a reason for that.
I have tried and tried to get Senator Edwards’ staff to pass this message along to him. Ownership is the reason that the blogs have taken off and it is the key to winning an election. A voter that feels a sense of ownership in an election will work 10X harder than someone who feels like just a nameless grunt. People want to believe that they can change the politics around them. Larry Kissell did a great job of this, I mean how many people commented that “Oh My God! He hand-signed his Thank You Note. He SENT A THANK YOU NOTE! Here is another $50 contribution!” Ownership. Larry gave people the feeling that they were really making a difference, that he really appreciated it - and they jumped on it. When John Kerry or Senator Edwards or Jimmy Carter posts a blog on Daily Kos they get 1000 comments why? Ownership. People think, hey this guy is here talking to me! To digress, any candidate that wants to lock up the netroots for 2008 need only do one thing – show up. Show up and comment on other people’s diaries without fanfare, without previous notice, and let people feel ownership over the process. That candidate would become a netroots God. Back to business.
Ownership works at the local level as well. We’ve heard that many counties have little organization. Well, I wonder why? Possibly it is because they never have anyone to rally around. They have no NC House races, no NC Senate races, and Presidential candidates that have ignored this state for 30 years. By running a local candidate in every race, we give North Carolina Democrats a sense of Ownership in the process. They become vital to the success of the Democratic Party and NOT for some far-off face seen only on Meet the Press, but for that guy down the street that used to run the feed store or the 3rd Grade teacher that every parent in town knows. That is what candidates have to understand and what they have to use in their 100 Counties strategy, Ownership. And, importantly, they have to tie that to something else.
A candidate can not win by themselves; they need a ground-game. Ownership tied to Responsibility is how we develop that ground-game. State chair communicates with county chair who communicates with the precinct captain who passes it along to the block captain who walks down the street to the cluster captain who is Responsible for their voters. A straight line of communication that depends on Ownership and Responsibility. Whether it is weekly or monthly communiqués early in the campaign or daily talks at the close of a campaign, by giving people ownership over the process and a responsibility for communication we create a person-to-person network that will be the envy of anything the Republicans have fielded.
There is a level of interdependence that is evident in the terminology that I am using here. We are assuming that the state chair will communicate with county chairs and precinct captains, and that all of this will be tied in with the candidate’s volunteer network. Exactly. There might be some pre-primary issues if we have multiple candidates running, but that is why I have always said candidates would have access to partitioned data on their OWN volunteers. No candidate will have to give up their activists to another local candidate. However, after the primary there will need to be some county-wide coordination of activists and volunteers. Let’s take a look at what I’m suggesting using Orange County.
This is Orange County, more or less, with our County Chair.
Now, this is my precinct, Dogwood Acres, with my Precinct Chair.
This is my block with your ever-loving block captain.
And, this is some guy that lives on my block as a cluster captain. Those arrows? Those are the voters he is responsible for getting into the voting booth.
Picture this in every county, in every precinct, in every street in North Carolina. THAT is what the Republican GOTV aims for, what Labor created in the 1900s and what we can have here in North Carolina. The only novel thing that I am suggesting is that we tie a 50-state type strategy in North Carolina to a GOTV chain that relies on candidate-based, person-to-person contact that creates Ownership and Responsibility. The key, to making this succeed if there is wide support is for things to get moving now. So, I’ve provided a little timeline of what I think needs done at major “benchmarks”. I know this is micromanaging, but again, here is one way of running a campaign that puts the 100 Counties Strategy into play without needing an independently-wealthy candidate.
Remember, that the goal is to set the candidate up to take advantage of the DeLay/Kissell/Foley/Kissell Effects (there are two Kissell effects recall). Also, the second goal is to make the candidate part of the 6X Genomic Effect that will win Democrats seats from dog-catcher to President.
18 Months (you heard me, 18 months out!!!)
• Meet with the county chair and set out an 18-month timetable for getting every voter covered by the network in your district.
• Begin meeting with as many precincts per week as possible to begin setting up the local network.
• Sign up precinct volunteers, block captains and cluster captains at each of these meetings, live (see below).
• The first six months will only require a few nights a week to setup the GOTV network and to make connections in every precinct you hope to serve.
• Make sure that all precincts have elected captains that are willing to undertake the responsibilities necessary to win Democratic seats.
• Pass on contact information for all precinct captains and officers to all county Democratic candidates for uploading into GOTV database.
• Give access to the online campaign system to each Democratic campaign with access to the VAN and training for campaign staff.
• Supply each campaign with a bare-bones laptop complete with wireless broadband access (like the Verizon card) so that block captains and cluster captains can be instantly entered into the GOTV database on site at the precinct meetings.
• Keep voters aware of what GOP is doing in the legislature using the online communication system, which will send email to those that have email, print out postcards to those who do not have email, or phone numbers. Too often legislators get to hide their bad decisions from their constituents. The candidate needs to be highlighting these decisions as they come.
• I would suggest at this point the candidates hit the early morning/late afternoon hand-shaking circuit. These candidates will still have jobs, but if they can get out and introduce themselves, it will go a long way to exciting the base. Canvassing, canvassing, and canvassing. Also a great way to work with the precinct, block, and cluster captains to setup Meet & Greets.
• At this point, every precinct should have a real leader and each block should have a captain that is reachable.
• Do at least one trial of the communication network for a legislative issue of general importance, like the minimum wage or healthcare.
• Gather emails from as many Democrats in the county as possible, update the VAN with volunteers.
• At this point the precincts should begin activating their block captains.
• Each block captain should identify a number of cluster captains that will agree to get 5-10 voters to the polls.
Run, Forrest, Run.
I’m really not going to add anything beyond this point because the people who work on the ground like Blue South and Southern Dem are probably shaking their heads already. My point of this timeline is to show that the 100 Counties Strategy depends on convincing County and Precinct officials that they OWN this election. Winning or losing depends on them. If you have a lousy County chair, the candidates can bypass them and work with the precincts directly. If you have a great County Chair but a lousy precinct captain, then to directly to the voters, knock on their doors and ask them to be block captains. If you start early enough, there is time to do it without quitting your job.
I’m feeling a little anticlimactic right now, because I have been thinking about this since July or August, back when the 50-state project really took off. I didn’t want to post anything on it over time because there was no way it could be tuned up in time for the 2006 election and I didn’t want it to serve as a distraction. So, this has been at the front of my mind for months. As such, there are probably things I have forgotten to mention or make clear. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I have to go Chair a meeting pretty soon, but I will be back later to check in on the comments.
100 Counties, 170 Democratic Candidates, One Centralized Campaign, a Blue NC.